VETERAN leader Robert Mugabe was on Thursday sworn-in as president for the next five years in a ceremony attended by a handful of African leaders but boycotted by his erstwhile colleagues from the outgoing unity government.
The ceremony was held at the giant National Sports Stadium before a crowded gallery, which greeted the veteran leader with wild cheers when he entered the giant sports facility accompanied by his wife, Grace.
Mugabe was taken through his swearing-in rituals – his seventh such experience since becoming Zimbabwe’s founding leader in 1980 – by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku in a ceremony that was broadcast live on national television.
In his inaugural speech that lasted more than an hour, Mugabe lashed out at Western governments that have refused to accept the outcome of the July 31st poll, which saw him garner 61 percent of the presidential vote.
“SADC, Comesa, the African Union, the ACP, the United Nations as well as many nations of good will have praised the elections here,” Mugabe said.
“We welcome this positive spirit, this encouragement which should see us do even better, move forward faster as a nation. But like in all elections, there will always be bad losers, real spoilers, it is a price we pay for electoral democracy, isn’t it?
“Indeed an inevitable phase in our growth as a people where the democratic practice, where such a grousing stance remains non antagonistic, where it expresses itself within the four corners of the law. It must be tolerated as part of the Democratic tussles, part of electoral adjustments.
“For those old western countries who happen to hold a different negative view of our electoral process and outcome, well there is not much we can do about them. We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mould.
“They are entitled to their views for as long as they recognise that the majority of our people endorsed the electoral outcome. Indeed for as long as they recognise that no Zimbabwean law was offended against and for us that is all that matters.
“After all Zimbabwean elections are meant for Zimbabwean voting citizens; after all Zimbabwean democracy is meant for the people of Zimbabwe who must within certain periods go to the polls to choose and install a government of their choice.
“It is their sole prerogative and no outsiders however superior or powerful they may imagine themselves to be, can override that right, let alone take it from them. It is our inherent right, we fought for it when it was lost we won it through our own blood, we keep it for us and posterity, we reserve it forever as an expression of our sovereignty as a free people.
“Today we tell those dissenting nations that the days of colonialism and neo-colonialism have gone and gone forever. Today it is Britain and her dominions of Australia and Canada who dare tell us that our elections were not fair and credible.
“Today it is America and her illegal elections with all that past of enslaving us, it is America that dares raise a censorious voice over our affairs and says our elections were not fair, were not credible, yes today it is these Anglo-Saxon who dare contradict Africa’s verdict over elections in Zimbabwe, an African country. But who are they we ask? Whoever gave them the gift of seeing better than all of us?”
The US has ruled out lifting its sanctions while the UK said it wanted an independent audit to investigate “allegations of election irregularities”. The EU also “serious concerns” about the conduct of the elections and said it would take this into consideration when reviewing its sanctions against the country.
But Mugabe insisted that said the flawless conduct of the July 31 elections left countries hostile to his government with no excuse for maintaining the sanctions which he blames for the country’s economic problems.
“Yesterday the pretext for imposing those sanctions was to do with a deficit of democracy here. Today we ask those culprit nations what their excuse is. What is it now? Whose interests are those sanctions meant to serve?”
The veteran leader extended an olive branch to his former partners in the inclusive government.
“I owe nothing but praise and respect to my GPA era partners who are also my fellow countrymen. I am referring to former Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and much later Professor Welshman Ncube,” Mugabe said, adding that their collaboration as an inclusive government helped produce the country’s first ever post-independence constitution.
“We have worked together initially compelled by GPA protocol, we found each other and proceeded to produce the current constitution but it was the constitution to help us mould the way of life we have chosen for ourselves on this our land, our country together and for as long as our nation subsists, so will elections and the opportunities they offer also subsist.
“Our own destiny bids us to work together never at cross purposes, we will be having competitions, having winners and losers but we are not competing, we shall never be competing to be Zimbabweans. No, that was a fight we fought and that was the gift that our country gave us, that we shall all we the citizens of this country be Zimbabweans.”
African leaders present were President Joseph Kabila of DRC, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, and Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini.
Zambian leader Michael Sata was represented by his deputy Guy Scott while former South African leader and now Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe stood in for President Jacob Zuma.
Former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa both from Tanzania, Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa , Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Sir Quett Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae both from Botswana also attended the inauguration.
But, and as expected, the two MDC formations boycotted the ceremony, which was however attended by Mutambara.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe said Thursday he would now turn his attention to addressing the country economic problems and delivering on his election promises following his inauguration before a capacity 60,000 crowd at the national sports stadium in Harare.
Festooned in a sash, garland and medals, the 89-year-old was sworn in for his seventh term as leader of the country by chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku during a ceremony also attended by several current and former regional leaders.
“I stand before you as now a sworn President of Zimbabwe,” he told he told cheering crowd.
“My mandate comes from the just-ended election in which I should say through my party, Zanu PF, you gave me and my party that mandate as the party won the elections resoundingly.”
Unlike previous low-key investitures, Thursday’s event – replete with banners, flags and chants – carried strong echoes of Mugabe’s inauguration as prime minister of a newly independent Zimbabwe in 1980.
Hints by the West that debilitating sanctions would likely be kept in place and a no-show by leaders from neighbouring countries – including President Jacob Zuma of regional power-broker South Africa – did little to dampen enthusiasm.
Neither did a boycott by opposition leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who insists the 31 July vote was stolen.
Mugabe was greeted in the stadium by thunderous cheers and whistling. On board a military truck he inspected assembled military personnel.
His address however, showed an awareness of the enormity of the task he faces following his landslide victory in the elections which also ended his coalition arrangement with Tsvangirai.
“There are key truths that come with that victory, which come with that honour,” he said.
“The peasant who cast his vote on July 31 created my victory and that made a portion of my presidency. I am at his service. I am his emissary and servant. He or she did not cast that precious vote in vain.
“The business person, he or she too voted for me, contributing to my presidency. He or she too has definite expectations founded on his or her role in society as a creator of work. So, all these and others who contributed to our victory have also expectations.
“What shall we do now to contribute towards their own lives? The farmer – small, medium, big – voted for my party, thereby assisting in my presidency. His vote was his input.
“I am the instrument of his dream, the self-employed man and woman all struggling on the margin of the former economy, in the SMEs, he or she has greater expectations. Great expectations from all of them. They have lives to build; they have children to look after, generations to take care of.
“The new cabinet is expected to move very swift in mobilising adequate resources for farmers and electricity to make a return of food sufficiency. (We must) think about all those demands on us. Let us therefore think of our obligations and ways and means to fulfil those expectations, to satisfy them.
“In Bulawayo, water must be re-supplied. We cannot have erratic water supplies in cities. Hospitals and clinics must have adequate drugs and equipment. Road maintenance equipment for the rural development agencies must be improved.
“The mining sector will be the centrepiece of our economic recovery and growth. It should generate growth spurts across sector; reignite that economic miracle which must now happen.”
He added: “I promise you better conditions (but also) call upon you all to summon your goodwill to live the skills you now have; (and we created a lot of skills amongst us) those skills must now be put to use.”
The veteran leader rejected western criticism of his re-election but conceded that sanctions which had been eased to encourage the country to hold free and fair elections would now likely remain in place.
“We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mourn,” he said venting against Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States.
“Most likely we shall remain under these sanctions for much longer (but) we continue to look East.”
Gates to the Chinese-built stadium opened shortly after dawn. The day had been declared a public holiday, helping boost attendance.
Banners around the oval stadium carried messages praising African leaders and denouncing Western governments accused of meddling in Zimbabwe’s political affairs.
“Which African ever observed elections in Europe, America?” read one banner. “Africa has spoken, respect it’s voice,” said another.
The inauguration had been delayed after Tsvangirai challenged the poll results – which he denounced as “massive fraud” – in a petition to the Constitutional Court that was later withdrawn.
The Constitutional Court confirmed Mugabe as president and declared the elections “free, fair and credible”, saying the results “reflected the free will of the people of Zimbabwe”.
Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe, said the event was at once Mugabe’s victory lap and his “last supper”.
“This inauguration is being projected as the crowning of a victory of a struggle for the past 13 years against big Western powers,” he said.
There is however also an “unintended meaning”, he said. “It can be read as a farewell event for Mugabe. It reminds one of Jesus’s Last Supper.”